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Robert Motherwell
Signs on Copper

1981

$18,000

About

An original signed lift-ground etching and aquatint on German Etching paper by American artist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) titled "Signs on Copper", 1981. Hand pencil signed and numbered by Motherwell lower right. Limited edition: 45/53. (There were also 10 artist's proofs). Printed by Catherine Mosley in the artist's studio in Greenwich, CT and published by the artist Motherwell himself. Released by Petersburg Press, London, UK and New York, NY. Artist's chopmark/blindstamp lower right. Provenance: private collection - Palm Beach, FL. Reference: Catalogue Raisonné 1943-1990 - "The Prints of Robert Motherwell" - Belknap No. 252, pg. 249; Engberg No. 286. Not framed, but matted with a custom hand-wrapped 8 ply linen mat. Matted size: 28.25" x 33.75". Sheet size: 27" x 31.75". Image size/platemark: 17.75" x 23.5". Light mat burn and some discoloration in margins. Minor moisture staining lower right corner. The printed image itself is in pristine condition with strong rich colors. In overall very good condition. Very rare. Production Sequence: 2 colors printed in 3 runs from 2 zinc plates and 1 copper plate: 1. burnt sienna - zinc plate (aquatint); 2. burnt sienna - copper plate (aquatint); 3. black - zinc plate (lift-ground etching and aquatint). Robert Motherwell was born January 24, 1915, in Aberdeen, Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles at age 11, and in 1932 studied painting briefly at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Motherwell received a B.A. from Stanford University in 1937 and enrolled for graduate work later that year in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He traveled to Europe in 1938 for a year of study abroad. His first solo show was presented at the Raymond Duncan Gallery in Paris in 1939. In September of 1940, Motherwell settled in New York, where he entered Columbia University to study art history with Meyer Schapiro, who encouraged him to become a painter. In 1941, Motherwell traveled to Mexico with Roberto Matta for six months. After returning to New York, his circle came to include William Baziotes, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, and Jackson Pollock. In 1942, Motherwell was included in the exhibition First Papers of Surrealism at the Whitelaw Reid Mansion, New York. In 1944, Motherwell became editor of the Documents of Modern Art series of books, and he contributed frequently to the literature on Modern art from that time. A solo exhibition of Motherwell’s work was held at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, New York, in 1944. In 1946, he began to associate with Herbert Ferber, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko, and spent his first summer in East Hampton, Long Island. This year, Motherwell was given solo exhibitions at the Arts Club of Chicago and the San Francisco Museum of Art, and he participated in Fourteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The artist subsequently taught and lectured throughout the United States, and continued to exhibit extensively in the United States and abroad. A Motherwell exhibition took place at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1976–77. He was given important solo exhibitions at the Royal Academy, London, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., in 1978. A retrospective of his works organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, traveled in the United States from 1983 to 1985. From 1971, the artist lived and worked in Greenwich, Connecticut. He died July 16, 1991, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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About the Artist

Robert Motherwell

The name of painter, printmaker and writer Robert Motherwell (1915–91) is often taken as synonymous with the New York School, whose name he coined. Motherwell was the youngest of this group of Abstract Expressionists working in art, dance, poetry and music in 1950s and '60s New York City, which included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Helen Frankenthaler and Mark Rothko.Born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1915, Motherwell had perhaps the broadest and best education of any of the New York School coterie, with an extensive background in philosophy, literature and art history. He earned a BA in philosophy in 1937 from Stanford University and was working toward a PhD in the subject at Harvard when he interrupted his studies for a yearlong trip to Europe, where he fell in love with European modernism.After returning, in 1940 he enrolled Columbia to study art history. It was there that he met a group of exiled Parisian Surrealists, and encounter that proved influential on his style. Motherwell began to integrate the idea of “automatism” — unmediated gestures that reflect deeper psychological impulses — into his work, pioneering a new form of Abstract Expressionism that came to characterize the New York School.Works like the 1967 Beside the Sea no. 45, an acrylic on canvas, and the 1966 lithograph New York International epitomize Motherwell’s use of simple shapes in boldly contrasting colors, executed in quick, gestural strokes that occasionally evoke figures, suggesting a latent narrative despite their obvious abstraction.Throughout his career, Motherwell taught painting at Hunter College, in New York, and at Black Mountain College, in North Carolina, where his work influenced the likes of Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg and Kenneth Noland. His influence as one of the founding fathers of American Abstract Expressionism remains profound.
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